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These 39 best Paris experiences open the door to feeling Paris. Sure, they can just be checked off a list but…
“A breath of Paris preserves the soul.” Victor Hugo
Oh, Victor. You nailed it. Because if you do stop to take that breath resting under a chestnut tree, leaning on a bridge railing, sipping a noisette, Paris silently seeps in. On some level, something shifts.
These 39 best Paris experiences are the ones I find myself returning to whether solo in the City of Light or with a friend. Each time seeing, through a prism, a varying version of what I thought I already knew about this city. I breathe deeply and a grin emanates from within. I mean, when in the City of Light – why not preserve the soul at the same time?
39 Best Paris Experiences
1. Marvel At The Eiffel Tower
So cliché. The Eiffel Tower just has to be number ONE. Especially if you have never seen it before.
You just can’t set foot in Paris without seeing her infamous tower. I am still surprised at the effect the Eiffel Tower has on me. It’s magical every time.
The Iron Lady makes an appearance when you are least expecting it, soaring over rooftops or peeking out at the road’s end. She looks fine in the daytime but even more glamorous at night. On the hour, her golden twinkling lights glitter for 5 minutes as her sweeping beam ignites the city.
There are many views of the Eiffel Tower. Which is the best?
Start at Place du Trocadero.
2. Best Paris Experiences: Relax In The Jardin du Luxembourg
This garden, found in the 6th arrondissement, is classic Paris. There are over 100 statues, the Medici fountain, sculpted trees and a palace. Of course, there’s a palace!
The Luxembourg Gardens is truly one of the best Paris experiences. The day starts with dozens of sage-green metallic chairs randomly scattered waiting for their first patron. Before long newspapers are snapped to attention, books are devoured, boats are sailed and ponies ridden. Explore behind the sculpted trees and you might find a small group of people rehearsing a performance, the beehives, the insect home or a game of pétanques.
On a hot day, pull out your picnic basket filled with cheese, a baguette and wine. Join the crowd.
I swear they are unconsciously preserving their souls.
3. Top Paris Things To Do: Admire Notre Dame Cathedral
Please Note: Since the devastating fire of April 2019, no one can visit Notre Dame Cathedral. But, you can visit all the posters explaining what happened and stand in the parvis (area in front of the cathedral) and watch the crane at work.
Her flying buttresses soar. Her uneven towers and exquisite rose windows are world-renowned. Paris experiences don’t get much better than this.
Every visit to Notre Dame presents a different experience. Maybe this time it will be the incense. The singing Parisians. The way the light falls through the stained glass. The echoing footsteps of today echo those of ancient times.
4. Best Paris Experiences: Partake In A Walking Tour
Stories abound in Paris. The more you wander you uncover the connections between the stories. Taking a walking tour unveils historical anecdotes that you might not otherwise hear.
I have had three different guides with Discover Tours all of whom were outstanding. Their passion and love for Paris were infectious.
Greeters of Paris uses Parisian volunteers who are eager to share their neighbourhood with you. You don’t get to pick the neighbourhood, the guide picks you. Hmm, kind of like the wand picking the wizard. Right? They advertise “Come as a visitor, leave as a friend.” I would concur.
A walking tour is one of the best Paris experiences. What stories will you learn? Who will you meet? Read about 7 Unique Walking Tours of Paris.
5. What To See In Paris: Stop By The Museums
A list of the best Paris experiences would not be complete without a gallery visit. Or two. Take your pick. Of course, the Louvre is a must-see. But there are galleries for everybody’s interest in Paris. Maybe try a new one like the Atelier des Lumières. Choose one that is less known such as the Musée Jacquemart-André housed in a gorgeous mansion or one that has a lovely garden like the Rodin Museum.
6. Stroll The Quays Of The Seine
It was one walk. Along the Seine one fall evening that left me wanting more. The joie de vivre and an overwhelming sense of connected community was intoxicating. Couples, families, lovers and friends shared champagne and a delectable feast from the local shops.
It left such an impact, I return every time. Runners, children, dancers, skateboards, wedding photoshoots and always picnic baskets with wine grace her shores.
And in the summer? Look for the palm trees! Truly one of the best Paris experiences. Every trip to Paris needs to include a stroll by the Seine!
7. Best Paris Experiences: Wander Montmartre
Sitting atop the Butte de Montmartre (Montmartre Hill) the white basilica of Sacré-Coeur watches over Paris. Stand in front of Sacré-Coeur and marvel at the extensive vista of Paris. For a 360° view of Paris climb the stairs inside the main dome. It is a good workout hanging around Montmartre! Stairs and more stairs.
Montmartre’s charming cobblestone streets, Place du Tertre full of artists and one of the few vineyards in Paris sweep you away to a time gone by.
Don’t kid yourself it is very touristy but at the same time one of the best Paris experiences. So enjoy the sights and then… walk away from the crowds to the other side of the hill and oh là la there is that village feeling of Paris.
8. Picnic In Place des Vosges
Situated in the trendy, hipster area Le Marais, Paris’ oldest square elegantly invites you in. Sit in the park, admire the statue of Louis XIII, visit the Victor Hugo Museum and note the red brick symmetrical houses with dormer windows. I adore dormer windows! A notable difference from all the white Hausmann buildings in Paris.
9. Unique Paris Experience: Shop At Galeries Lafayette
If you love shopping, look out you just might disappear in the shoe department for hours on end. Or possibly the perfume section. Galeries Lafayette is one of the top stores to shop in Paris. Don’t forget to look up! The Art Nouveau glass dome has been around for over one hundred years. Take the escalator to the seventh-floor terrace and enjoy spectacular views over Paris.
10. Best Paris Experiences: Cross Pont Alexandre III
There are a lot of bridges over the Seine but the Pont Alexandre III, built in 1900, is just so exquisite. Is it the intricate lamps? Or the fact that it faces the golden dome of Les Invalides? Or that you have a view of the Eiffel Tower? There are many reasons to enjoy a stroll over this bridge! Great photo ops at every turn. But… it is usually bustling with traffic. Get there in the early morning and you will have one of the best Paris experiences.
11. Unforgettable Paris Experiences: Dance Tango By The Seine
There is nothing more delightful and sensuous than sitting in the amphitheatre at Jardin Tino-Rossi, facing the Seine and watching the tango unfold. Couples sway this way and that to fabulous music while tour boats buzz past on the Seine.
Along this part of the Seine, there is also salsa dancing and rock. Follow your passion, find a spot to sit and tap your toes and be prepared.. you just might get invited to dance as I did!
12. Watch Life Unfold In Place Dauphine
Although Paris is full of delightful “places,” this one is not to be missed. Found at the western end of Ile de la Cité, Place Dauphine is over 400 years old. This square, one of Paris’ oldest, still provides an oasis in a bustling city – sip rosé in a café, watch a game of pétanques or relax on a bench. An unforgettable Paris experience.
13. Best Paris Experiences: Eat A Meal At Marché des Enfants Rouges
This is Paris’ oldest covered market. Built in 1615, Marché des Enfants Rouges is a small maze of stalls filled with delectable treasures. Arrive at lunchtime and find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists and Parisians alike. My favourite is the cornet végétarien at Chez Alain Miam Miam. A great gluten-free find in Paris. Be prepared to line up then join a picnic table or walk to the nearby park to devour your meal.
Strike up a conversation with a market vendor and you might get some advice on love and life at the Marché des Enfants Rouges! Now that’s an unforgettable Paris experience.
14. Top Paris Thing To Do: Be Astonished By Sainte-Chapelle
Nothing needs to be said. Right? This is another of Paris’ oldest. The oldest stained glass windows rise 15 metres. It’s breathtaking on a sunny day but equally as soul-stirring during an evening concert. Listening to Ave Maria under the Gothic arches is unforgettable.
15. Enjoy Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Parc des Buttes Chaumont, which opened in 1867, is a favourite among locals. Find families picnicking, trumpets being practised, wedding photoshoots and lots of sunbathing. It is one of Paris’ largest green spaces with a hidden waterfall and a 50-metre cliff topped with the Temple de la Sybille reminiscent of the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy.
16. Best Paris Experiences: Flâner On Ile Saint-Louis
Ile Saint-Louis is the small island nestled behind Notre Dame Cathedral. At one time it was a cow pasture and when you visit, you can totally picture the herds grazing. The façades of the buildings with their intricate door knockers, the narrow streets and the Baroque church are all a snapshot into one of Paris’s oldest villages. Don’t forget to savour the famous Berthillon ice cream and listen to the street music on Pont Saint-Louis. Here are the full details on this best Paris experience, Ile Saint-Louis.
17. Follow The Art Nouveau Trail
You can’t miss Art Nouveau in Paris if you look for the Metro stations designed by Henri Guimard. They are a hallmark of classic Paris. If Guimard’s fanciful designs intrigue you, head to the residential area of the 16th arrondissement and follow this trail of fascinating facades.
If you can’t get to the 16th arrondissement, close to the Eiffel Tower is a stunning and intricate house at #29 Avenue Rapp designed by Jules Lavirotte.
18. Scour A Paris Flea Market For An Antique Treasure
The most well-known Paris flea market is Les Puces. Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is legendary. It is a massive market and requires time to stroll, explore, and ponder which treasures will fit in your suitcase. Just walking past the stalls and observing the vendors is in itself an unforgettable Paris experience.
19. Best Paris Experiences: Take A Cooking Course
France is known for its gastronomy. Whether it be its classic French dishes such as boeuf bourguignon or its marvellous array of pâtisseries. How much fun is it to learn and create in the kitchen with a Parisian chef?
One of my best Paris experiences was taking a 4-hour cooking course at the Ecole Ritz Escoffier at the Ritz Hotel. Read about my cooking class experience and why not book a class yourself?
20. Unique Things To Do In Paris: Explore Ile Aux Cygnes
If you love the Seine and its islands, Ile aux Cygnes is a fun one to explore. Swan Island (as it is called in English) is not necessarily going to deliver any swans to view but you will find the largest Statue of Liberty in Paris, a biodiverse strip of an island and some great views of the Eiffel Tower. This is one of those unique Paris experiences that most people don’t know about! Read my full article on Ile aux Cygnes to find out more
21. Unforgettable Paris Experience: Eat The Best Croissant
I have discussed this over and over with several French friends trying to decide on the very best croissant to savour in Paris. I vote for Maison d’Isabelle. When I walk past this pâtisserie, the glorious buttery croissant smell gets me every time. Grab a croissant or a few and head to a nearby park as there are no tables to eat at here.
If you can’t make it to Maison d’Isabelle, here are some other top choices for excellent croissants in Paris.
22. Take A Day Trip To Giverny
Giverny, not too far from Paris but situated in Normandy, France is the perfect day trip from Paris. You don’t have to go far to feel as though you have travelled to the countryside. Claude Monet’s home and garden in Giverny France are a popular tourist attraction and you’ll know why as soon as you arrive. The water lilies are astounding and the colourful gardens are an array of fabulous colours. Monet’s house is interesting to explore as is the small town of Giverny.
Interested in other day trips from Paris? Here is a list of great day trips from Paris.
23. Best Paris Experiences: Discover Street Art
You might not think of heading to the 13th arrondissement of Paris but searching out the neighbourhood of La Butte aux Cailles is well worth it. First of all, the area has that Paris village feeling. Just pull up a chair at a café and watch the locals interact. Then start exploring the tiny streets filled with street art Read all about this unique Paris experience in my guide to La Butte aux Cailles.
24. Enjoy A Paris Winter Wonderland
Being in Paris when the snow flies is a magical and unforgettable Paris experience. Your best chance to have a snowy day is to visit Paris in the winter. Follow my tips on snow in Paris to make the most of this best Paris experience. Will there be snow when you visit Paris in January? Be quick. The snow in Paris doesn’t last long.
25. Unforgettable Paris Experiences: Stop By The Hemingway Bar
It’s cosy. It’s iconic. And even if you have never read a book by Ernest Hemingway, you can’t help but get caught up in the fabulous atmosphere in this bar tucked away in The Ritz Hotel. This best Paris experience also includes legendary cocktails! Read more about the Hemingway Bar.
26. Cool Things To Do In Paris: Dine At Ferrandi
Dining at Ferrandi, one of France’s top cooking schools, in one of their training restaurants is a unique Paris experience that you will not soon forget. The servers under the watchful eye of their professors present the delectable multi-course meal that is created by the chefs-in-training. Find out how to take part in this rich Paris experience at Ferrandi.
27. Skip Over The Canal Saint-Martin Bridges
Soaking up the vibe at Canal Saint-Martin is an unforgettable Paris experience. I love standing on the iconic iron bridges and watching boat traffic pass through the locks and Parisians perched by the Canal having an apéro or picnic. Stop by the terrace at Chez Prune, a classic French bistro, and shop the boutiques along Quai de Valmy and rue Beaurepaire. Read all the best things to do around Canal Saint-Martin.
28. Best Paris Experiences: Take A Seine Cruise
I’m not going to lie. This never appealed to me. But one day, I hopped on a Seine Cruise and suddenly understood why it is one of the best Paris experiences. The Seine Cruises float past so many major Paris monuments and seeing them from the level of the river gives a completely different perspective.
My favourite cruise line is Bateaux Mouches. And my favourite time of day to go is in the evening to see the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkling.
29. Dine At A Traditional Bouillon
Classic bouillon restaurants started making a comeback in Paris a few years ago. Here’s what to expect: traditional French food, large portions, affordable prices, and an authentic and bustling atmosphere. One of my favourites is Chez Julien with its stunning interior designed in the Art Nouveau style. Dining in a bouillon restaurant in Paris is a unique Paris experience! Read about the best Bouillon Restaurants in Paris.
30. Get Familiar With The Latin Quarter
There are a few neighbourhoods in Paris that make the “best experiences in Paris” list and the Latin Quarter (mostly the 5th arrondissement) is one of them.
Cobbled streets, stately architecture, vestiges of Roman Paris, and one of the world’s oldest learning institutions, La Sorbonne, are cornerstones of the Latin Quarter of Paris.
The Latin Quarter of Paris is the perfect place to flâner. Stroll along tiny streets, stop in a café, browse through a bookstore or the Jardin des Plantes, and visit some of France’s greatest thinkers at the Panthéon.
Here is my list of the 17 best things to do in Paris’s Latin Quarter.
Read about more unique Paris experiences in the Latin Quarter with insider tips from a part-time Latin Quarter resident.
31. Unique Paris Experience: Château de Chantilly
On the hunt for a gorgeous castle less busy than Versailles? Head to the Château de Chantilly, a dreamy and fairytale-like castle, that is the perfect day trip from Paris. The stunning castle reflected in its surrounding pond, the Grand Stables, beautiful gardens and the incredible art collection will keep you entertained for the better part of a day. And don’t forget to sample Chantilly cream!
Read More | My recommended day trips from Paris. So many places to go!
32. Best Paris Experiences: Stroll rue du Bac
Maybe I’m partial. I lived on rue du Bac for eight months and I actually have many favourite streets in Paris (you can find some great streets here) but if you love boutique shopping and speciality food shops, rue du Bac is a winner. Start at the chic department store, Le Bon Marché, and its incredible food store, La Grande Epicerie, and stroll all the way to the Seine. In fact, you’ll end up at the Louvre! Here are all my best places to stop on rue du Bac.
33. Eat Galettes Or Oysters At The Marché Bastille
Marché Bastille, the Bastille Market, on Blvd. Richard Lenoir is hopping with locals on Thursdays from 7 am to 2:30 pm and Sundays from 7 to 3 pm. With the Bastille’s Colonne de Juillet in the background, wander through one of Paris’s biggest markets. If you love buying clothing at French markets or gathering ingredients to cook up a true French feast, you will find just what you need here.
Be sure to find the galette stand (you’ll see the lineup) where authentic Breton galettes are cooked before your eyes. I love the traditional galette with egg, cheese, and ham. Pair it will a glass of brut cider (dry cider). Still got room? Try the Kouign amann. Here you are standing in the 11th arrondissement of Paris but, close your eyes for a second, and be immediately transported to Brittany, France!
Recently I joined in the oyster and sea urchin fun on a Sunday at noon. Find the poissonnerie where a few high tables and stools are set out and Parisians are diving straight into platters of oysters accompanied by a glass of white wine. Slurping and laughing. A great way to start a Sunday. Not sure how to eat oysters like the French? Here is how to attack a platter of oysters!
34. Marvel At The View From The Panthéon
Originally erected as a church to honour Sainte Geneviève, after the French Revolution the Panthéon was transformed into a temple where famous French men (yes, mostly men) are interred. Wandering through the crypt, you’ll find a real who’s who of the French greats. You’ll also find a fabulous art collection and Foucault’s pendulum.
From April to October 31 climb the 206 stairs of the Panthéon to the viewing platform for marvellous views over Paris.
Read More | The 6 Women Honoured in the Panthéon, Paris.
35. Explore Paris’s Smallest And Oldest Cemetery
If you happen to be in Paris on November 1, Toussaint, head on over to the Cimetière du Calvaire in Montmartre. The stunning bronze doors only open once a year to the public. Visit this tiny cemetery by guided tour. Here are your best tips on how to visit the Calvaire Cemetery.
36. Cool Things To Do In Paris: Surrender To A Gommage
Head on over to visit the Grande Mosquée of Paris in the Latin Quarter. Its stunning tile work, minaret, lush gardens and tea room are well worth the visit. But, how about entering the Hammam for a wonderful steam bath, gommage, mint tea, and massage? It’s one of the best Paris experiences for regenerating and relaxing in Paris. It’s for women only! Here is how to enjoy the hammam at the Grand Mosque in Paris.
37. Unique Things To Do In Paris: Stand Amidst Royalty
Saint-Denis, just outside of Paris and accessible by métro, is not really known as a tourist destination. But, the Basilica of St-Denis in the main square is the birthplace of Gothic architecture. This cathedral was a pilgrimage destination and is where the majority of the French Kings and Queens are buried. Read the full story of what to expect at the Basilica of St-Denis.
38. See Paris Glitter At Christmas Time
Paris is always a good idea and one of the best Paris experiences is to see the magical Christmas light displays. Read about where to find 11 most elegant and unforgettable Christmas lights in Paris.
39. Best Paris Experiences: Get Lost
Of all these 39 best Paris experiences, this should be #1.
- throw out the itinerary
- walk in the opposite direction to the crowd
- step through an open doorway
- connect to the energy that is Paris
- make your own unique discoveries (even if later you find they are written up in every guidebook)
- sit in a new café
This is where the magic happens. Inhale that Paris breath and the soul shall indeed sigh.
What would you add to the list?